THE HISTORY OF THE ACHILLES CONNECTICUT CHAPTER
Current Chapter President Erin Spaulding spent one recent off-season researching the history of how the Chapter fit into the overall Achilles International organization. Achilles was founded in 1983 as the “Achilles Track Club” by Dick Traum, the first amputee to finish the New York City Marathon in 1976. Erin uncovered a rich history of Achilles here in the state, as outlined below:
“When I took over the coordination of the CT Chapter from Tony Allegretti in 2013, I learned that the Achilles presence in CT was based in the larger cities. Diane Amato was organizing Hartford; Rick Asselta was out in Danbury, and there were small pockets of athletes and volunteers spread around the state. I spoke to Rick Asselta by phone, who now spends the majority of the year in Puerto Rico. Rick first met Dick Traum in 1993, when he got involved with the NYRR Cancer Support Team. Dick put the team through Achilles, and then Rick, who was a teacher in Danbury with at-risk youth, gathered 10-15 youth together to compete in races in CT and NYC. Rick moved to Puerto Rico in 2010 and luckily had met Tony at one of the NYC Marathons. Rick remains active in Achilles in Puerto Rico and in 2015 raced the NYC Marathon accompanied by two Achilles CT guides!”
“I also learned that there was an Achilles Chapter based out of Gaylord Rehabilitation Hospital in Wallingford. It was started in the late ’80s to honor the memory of Pat Griskus, an amputee marathoner from CT who was Dick Traum’s competition in the early ’80s! Pat would travel from his home in Wolcott to lead Achilles workouts in Central Park on Wednesdays. Pat also competed in triathlons and finished his first Ironman in 1984. Tragically, Pat was killed in 1987 while training in Kona a week before the Ironman World Championship. His wife, Robin Griskus, founded an Achilles Chapter at Gaylord (and later the Pat Griskus Triathlon) in Pat’s memory.”
“Other key individuals in the history of the Chapter were at Gaylord. Nelson Carvalho was the head of the Physical Therapy Department at the time Robin started the Chapter and ran an Achilles workout on the weekends. Nelson now resides in sunny Florida. Trisha Meili (I Am The Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope & Possibility) was a patient at Gaylord in 1989 following her brutal attack, and told me how running at Gaylord was “an important part of my healing and recovery.” Trisha joined Achilles in NYC after leaving Gaylord, and she later went on to become the Founding Board Chairperson and Chairperson of the Achilles Hope & Possibility® road race in Central Park, always held on the last Sunday of June.”
“Since signing the Chapter Charter on February 10, 2013, I have been continually amazed at all that we have accomplished together with our athletes, volunteers, donors, and sponsors. Since 2014 we have been an Official Charity Partner of the Eversource Hartford Marathon. Additionally, we brought the Achilles Hope & Possibility® brand race to Connecticut in 2016 to showcase the “power of the human spirit” in one unifying event.
Flash forward to 2023 and the 10-year revival of our Achilles Connecticut Chapter, we have a membership of just over 85 athletes with all types of differing abilities, and close to 200 volunteers who support our Chapter in so many ways. After speaking with many of those who helped shape our Chapter into what it is today, I am so honored to carry on the legacy of Achilles here in Connecticut.”